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Old 12-10-2002, 09:56 AM   #1
happysod
Dojo: Kiburn, London, UK
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It's bugging me

I tried not to ask this question, but it's been bugging me for a few days now so here goes.

I was recently asked by a beginner to aikido (in the pub natch) what was the difference between a martial art and a self defence. Now I knew to the depths of my mat-broken little toe that there was a difference. But after a few beers and the inclusion of some modern codified schools of self defence in the argument, my certainty's wavering.

So, what are peoples thoughts?

(So far I failed to convince myself on the "developed for war" as opposed to a non-lethal self-defence system and the "spirituality" aspects don't always seem central to some of the martial arts around)

Yours with that niggling thought I've missed something major...
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Old 12-10-2002, 10:12 AM   #2
Dan Hover
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be reminded that there are Martial Ways, Martial Arts, Martial Sports, and Self Defense. Some overlap, some don't.

Dan Hover

of course that's my opinion, I could be wrong
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Old 12-10-2002, 10:20 AM   #3
diesel
Dojo: Tenshin
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Re: It's bugging me

Quote:
Ian Hurst (happysod) wrote:
I was recently asked by a beginner to aikido (in the pub natch) what was the difference between a martial art and a self defence. Now I knew to the depths of my mat-broken little toe that there was a difference. But after a few beers and the inclusion of some modern codified schools of self defence in the argument, my certainty's wavering.
I might be misreading this, but are you asking what we think the difference between a martial art and a self defense art is? Or the difference between a martial art and self defense..

I'll answer with my guessing of the question being the later.

A person punching someone that is attacking them is a form of self defense. A person shooting an attacker with a gun is a form of self defense. A person applying shihonage to a person attacking them is a form of self defense.

All of the above are forms of self-defense. However, I have listed these in an order I feel requires least training to more training. I beleive a martial art is just that. It is a trained way of defense and offense. Now there are martial arts that can be used to attack as we all know, that is also a form of self defense (depending upon the context). That would cover physical training, a few martial arts also cover a variety of mental training excercises as well.

So physical and mental training that enables me to defend myself or those close to me if it comes down to it. That's what I consider a martial art.

That may or may not be what your looking for!

Eric
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Old 12-10-2002, 10:21 AM   #4
Arianah
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*shrug* I think it is the economy of movement and understanding of physics for the most efficiency and effectiveness vs. a "just kick 'em in the nuts" mentality that separates the two. For me, budo also suggests the search for a deeper understanding of the priciples of conflict within the self and with others.

*shrug again*

Sarah

Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.
-Albert Einstein
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Old 12-10-2002, 10:48 AM   #5
beanchild
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i think the difference is that self-defense is defensive in nature, while martial arts are primarily offensive that may be used defensively if the person decides so. after all, the origins of martial are man-to-man combat (or man-to-men), correct?
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Old 12-10-2002, 11:09 AM   #6
REK
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One definition of a "true" martial art is that it includes a process of evolution or maturation for the practitioner that is usually "spiritually" guided.

A self defense system could be defined as a pragmatic, no-frills this-for-that response program with no interests beyond being the last one standing.

It seems to me the former always originates as the latter.

Some problems with these definitions include who is defining "spiritual" and what that word means in that case. Another is that some enter into practice of "true" martial arts with no desire to partake of the "spiritual". So I suppose it all boils down to what YOU think it is.

I know, that didn't help.

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Old 12-10-2002, 11:26 AM   #7
faramos
Dojo: University of Chicago Aikido Club
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Excellent Question and Point of Interest

I think this is an excellent question you have asked. It's something that I'm pretty sure has crossed the minds of all aikidoka at one point or another concerning what constitutes martial arts as well as what consitutes self-defense.

My own opinion on the matter depends highly on the issue of what you're looking to do with your martial skills. Sure, every technique that is praticed in aikido, tai chi, tong soo do, or judo can be seen as self-defense. Yet self-defense often implies the rationalization that you're learning certain technique to prepare solely for the worst case senario (a fight). If in fact you are training for that type of situation then according to nearly all high ranking martial artists and their predecessors, you are missing the point completely.

That point being that we are training in martial arts with the understanding that we should never have to use them. And that through our training and our practice we come to understand that it is not the application of techniques on other people that martial artists primarily train for, but the ability to reframe tough situations, as well as harmonize themselves through certain movements which is truly unique and special.

To reframe this idea a bit more, O Sensei is quoted as having said "Aikido is musogi (cleansing of the body/soul)." It is my personal feeling that is the goal of nearly all martial arts, not to flood the mind with thoughts of emminent conflict, but to clarify it through training so we never reach the point of phsycial conflict.

Cheers,

Frank
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Old 12-10-2002, 08:59 PM   #8
MaylandL
Location: Western Australia
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Re: It's bugging me

Quote:
Ian Hurst (happysod) wrote:
...

I was recently asked by a beginner to aikido ...what was the difference between a martial art and a self defence. ...

So, what are peoples thoughts?

...
You might like to have a look at this:

http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/martialarts.html

Its written by Marc MacYoung

Happy training

Mayland
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Old 12-11-2002, 02:27 AM   #9
happysod
Dojo: Kiburn, London, UK
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Thanks very much for the replies, this is exactly what I was hoping for.

diesel - my question was based mainly on that I've always heard of self-defence referenced as a (possible) part of martial arts, but not the main thrust, while certain systems only claim a self-defence aspect. Apologies if my query was unclear

beanchild - bit uncertain on this one, aikido normally claims it's a defensive martial art, how does this fit with your view of the difference?

REK - course it helped, I always like the idea of defining things myself and finding others feel the same way is consoling. Just kidding, like the general gist of your arguments

Maylandl - loved the site, well argued and presented, thanks.

So, my understanding of the replies is that the concensus is that there is a difference, but the difference is more one of the scope of application and the eventual goals of the practitioner rather than anything inherent within the systems themselves. It's more the ethos of how they're taught and perceived by the practitioners. Or am I still missing something?
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Old 12-11-2002, 09:03 AM   #10
ian
 
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Well martial arts derive from 'arts of war' i.e. formalised and diligent training methods to condition the soldier/warrior and to impart techniques which are useful in battle.

A self-defence is a way of defending oneself.

With less battles, both in the east and in the west, many of the techniques originally from martial arts have been incorporated into self-defence.

'Modern' martial arts aren't really conducted with the aim of war in mind (maybe the best equivalent to martial arts now would be basic training in the army). However it seems they have retained the name as they are taught in this formal quasi-military way, not just to impart self-defence techniques but to increase athletic ability/ foritude/ courage/ honour etc.

Thus I think the difference is mainly that modern martial arts retain some of their historic roots and aims, and self-defence doesn't. (but obviously there is a cross-over).

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 12-11-2002, 11:41 AM   #11
beanchild
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thanks ian, you explained my point better than i could. and i'll reiterate that even though aikido is a defensive martial art, it still remains martial; we are learning to seriously injure, maim, or kill our opponents. the defensive aspect gives us the additional option of compasionately redirecting them and their energy.
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Old 12-11-2002, 11:48 AM   #12
akiy
 
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I wouldn't categorize aikido as a "defensive" art myself. As I've said here before, I very well believe that the concepts of "sen no sen" and "sen sen no sen" are vital in the art.

But, that could just be me.

-- Jun

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Old 12-11-2002, 06:59 PM   #13
beanchild
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what do "sen no sen" and "sen sen no sen" mean?
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Old 12-11-2002, 07:40 PM   #14
PeterR
 
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Sen mean initiative.

Sen no sen - is seizing the initiative.

Sen sen no sen is the highest level of the latter where one is able to detect your opponents intentions before they are expressed.

The vast majority of Aikido training is reactive (go no sen) but it is certainly not limited to that. In fact the goal of your training is to reach a level where sen sen no sen is possible.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-12-2002, 03:25 AM   #15
happysod
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Knew it was too good to be true, thought I was getting a general feel for how people thought, but I think I'm now entering a new level of ignorance (a not uncommon state for me, I'm easily confused).

So, a martial art is not only self-defence with a more intangible aspect (blame the thesaurus, I wasn't going with spiritual), but also has its roots in war and a finishing point in maim/death/kill (if desired). I'm intrigued, can anyone give me some examples/opinions of either of the following.

a) a self-defence style becoming a martial art

b) a martial art losing touch with its roots and becoming just a form of self-defence and/or dance (and leave ki aikido out of this one you traditionalists)?

Off post (but they started it), on the "sen no sen" that aiky mentioned, do you highlight this area of aikido to beginners to the art or in any of your marketing/information literature - if so, any chance of reading how you introduce this concept. The closest I've ever come to this in a dojo is the "you're looking at me funny" attack..
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Old 12-12-2002, 04:03 AM   #16
Thalib
 
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p - bujutsu

| - bugei

Z - bugi

" - budou

All means martial art in english, but the ones that truly translate to art is bugei and bugi. Bujutsu actually leans to mean martial technique, the "how to", in other words military strategy. Budou actually translates to the martial way, this concerns the way of life. m" - bushidou means the way of the warrior, how a warrior should live one's life.

Self-defense is actually seitou bou-ei - "----hq. Seitou actually means just or right. Bou-ei means defense.

So, looking from the Japanese perspective, martial art is not limited to hand to hand combat. It has everything, from combat and battles, spying, swimming, even ways of building a castle. Sun Tzu's Art of War is not just limited to combat. The only people that is truly still in the martial arts are actually the military. Nobody actually does martial art for fun, it is serious, it is for war and it is not for one on one combat.

Self-defense style becoming a martial art, some of the modern ones, the mixed stuff, sometimes try to propose their style to the military. But the military usually already have a better one than the proposed new emerging ones. That's the only way I could see that a self-defense style becomes a martial art, when it could be used for war.

Most martial arts have let go the idea of ending one's opponent life as the only way to end a battle. Every style that ends in a "dou", usually means that it has left its killing ways. That's way there is no "nin-dou" to replace "ninjutsu".

Ah dance... reminds me of capoeira... Very beautiful to watch.

When I have to die by the sword, I will do so with honor.
--------
http://funkybuddha.multiply.com/
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Old 12-12-2002, 06:19 AM   #17
mike lee
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knowing that we know little

Quote:
Knew it was too good to be true, thought I was getting a general feel for how people thought, but I think I'm now entering a new level of ignorance (a not uncommon state for me, I'm easily confused).
Knowing that you don't know is the first step toward learning something new. Rejoice!

But here is where I think that some historic perspective may be helpful.

After WWII, the American occupiers in Japan were not too pleased with people practicing "martial arts." It seems to me that some cleaver sensei dreamed up the idea of "self-defence" in order to convince the Americans to let them open their dojo and start training again.

As far as I know, no one before WWII practiced anything called "self-defense."

Actually, I don't think either term (martial art or self-defence) really encapsulates what we practice (or the way we really should be practicing.) Thus, its seems, there's a lot of confusion, especially at the kyu-level, about what aikido is and how it should be practiced.

Last edited by mike lee : 12-12-2002 at 06:34 AM.
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Old 12-12-2002, 08:57 AM   #18
REK
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Quote:
Ian Hurst (happysod) wrote:
can anyone give me some examples/opinions of either of the following.

a) a self-defence style becoming a martial art
Yagyu-shinkage ryu swordsmanship I think derived from a single family's experience in defending their lands from intruders. It grew to a system that encompassed a hugely diverse set of skills, as suggested by Thalib
Quote:
b) a martial art losing touch with its roots and becoming just a form of self-defence and/or dance (and leave ki aikido out of this one you traditionalists)?
I would submit Jeet Kune Do as an example of just self defense. Its practitioners would likely disagree, as Bruce Lee was personally very philosophical/spiritual.

For dance I would suggest any of the myriad and prolific "McDojo's". Pick an art, it's represented.

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